Aston Villa tests me more than any other sports team that I follow. It has done nothing to live up to expectations built up for it because of the excellence of last season's squad. But frustration seems to be somewhat of a common theme in my sports life. Until 2007 the Philadelphia Phillies infuriated me, and the Philadelphia Eagles still torture me. The Philadelphia Flyers have done well but finish like Diego Forlan during his time with Manchester United. As for the Philadelphia 76ers... I'll leave it at that. Yet of all the teams I follow, Aston Villa is the only one that I have actually patience with.
It's something I realized last week. I have so much patience when it comes to Aston Villa. For everything else I am a fan of I sweat everything: transactions and trades, results, managers, ownership. Not Villa. There's something about this team that makes me feel fine with not seeing wins and points go up across from its name on the table.
Kirsten, in so many words, called me insane for having this mindset about Villa. It's understandable to think me crazy to have patience in a team that has shown little this season to have confidence in it at all. I'll admit, after last season I had high expectations for Villa. Rising young talent, a manager who seemed to know how to get the most out of his lads and a talisman in James Milner. Only one of those three would survive until this point this season.
Yet I'm calm. Tranquility is raining supreme right now in my mind. The reason for that is that this Villa squad reminds me of a team that is close to my heart. The beginning stages of the only (American) sports championship of my life started with a strikingly similar type of team, one I also had great patience for: the Philadelphia Phillies.
Patience with the Phillies was rewarded with a World Series championship in 2008 and now a team that looks like a dynasty in the making. Villa supporters should ask the question of "why can't us?" (it's a running joke from the 2008 World Series run) when it comes to building around a young, explosive core group of players. The Villians front office may have blundered with its assumptions that Stephen Ireland could solely replace Milner's impact - and more recently by signing Philadelphia hating Robert Pires - but it compares to a couple of poor personnel decisions by the Phillies front office. Curt Shilling, replaced by Omar Daal (through trade), and Scott Rolen, replaced with David Bell (by free agency), were both talismans in their own respects for the Phillies during their times in Philadelphia but eventually wanted out because of money and partially because of winning. Remind anyone of another situation?
That team began with a core of youth, with the likes of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard powering a team that had not seen the playoffs in 14 years to eventually win a World Series for the first time in 28 years. Trades of long employed veterans gave way to a youth movement that would form the pieces of the puzzle to power the Phillies to the top. Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabian Delph, Nathan Delfouneso and Ashley Young remind me of them. Call me crazy but the future of Villa is more than bright, it's scorching (insert other cheesy lines here). Core players are what build championship contenders. Agbonlahor, Delph and Young are the perfect players to build around to create a youthful core that would emulate the success of the Phillies' core. I can't forget Eric Lichaj or Barry Bannan or Marc Albrighton who provide Villa even more promise from youthful faces. Villa is one or two shrewd transfers away from being one of the best teams in England.
And that, my friends here at Holte, is why this writer is comfortable with patiently waiting for this team to finally click with Gerrard Houiller (or any manager for that matter) and progress up the English Premier League table.